The Sea-Eye 4 impounded in the port of Palermo | Photo: Screenshot from Twitter @seaeyeorg
The Sea-Eye 4 impounded in the port of Palermo | Photo: Screenshot from Twitter @seaeyeorg

After the announced clash in Parliament between the opposition and government over a new decree law clamping down on NGO ships, the legislation has now turned into a source of conflict between members of the ruling majority.

The right-wing League party is isolated over a measure approved by the Italian government concerning humanitarian ships after its amendments to the decree were declared inadmissible by the presidents of the Lower House's commissions examining the legislation.

The passage is required by procedures to convert the decree into law and the two presidents who took the decision are members of Forza Italia (FI) and Brothers of Italy (FdI), the League's allies in the government coalition.

The decision has irked the party led by Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini who fears allies want to deny him space on immigration, a theme that is central to his party's political identity.

Restrictive changes proposed

While Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi this week reiterated his claim that humanitarian ships operating in the Mediterranean allegedly encourage the departure of small migrant boats from Libya, the Lower House's commissions of constitutional affairs and transport started examining 226 amendments to the decree for NGOs.

All eyes, however, were not on the 210 amendments proposed by opposition members to rewrite the decree, but on the 16 proposed by the League party. The amendments in fact aimed to change the 2002 Bossi-Fini immigration law, further restricting it.

For example, the proposed changes would make it more difficult for migrants to be joined in Italy by family members or scrap many situations that allow humanitarian protection.

This last amendment alone, if approved, would deny special protection to 100,000 refugees, putting them in an irregular position, according to 25 associations who are part of the "Forum per Cambiare l'Ordine delle Cose" (Forum to Change the Order of Things).

Also read: International law and the criminalization of sea rescue

League's amendments rejected because they concern another law

The clash between members of the majority coalition was caused by the fact that the presidents of the commissions of constitutional affairs and transport, respectively Nazario Pagano (Forza Italia) and Salvatore Deidda (Brothers of Italy), said the League's amendments were not admissible because they were not aimed at changing the decree but another law.

Members of the fractious opposition, for once united in a parliamentary battle, had penned a letter to the presidents of the two commissions, asking them to declare the League's amendments inadmissible and vowing, in case they were not rejected, a harsh battle and obstruction.

The League's whip in the constitutional affairs commission, Igor Iezzi, avoided strong words against Pagano and Deidda, speaking instead about a "curious decision" and a "contradiction", given that the common theme of the decree and the amendments was immigration.

He then wondered whether the decision taken by the presidents did "not concern the substance" of amendments "but timing", implying that it was taken to avoid the opposition's obstruction. Pagano rejected the criticism, saying the decision was taken together with Deidda and the Lower House speaker, the League's Lorenzo Fontana.


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